Wheeling University Gets Science Education Grant

The Center for Educational Technology and the Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling University have been awarded a five-year, $1.3 million Science Education Partnership Award grant to create programming for middle school students.

Many people in the Wheeling area and across the nation have experienced natural disasters in recent months and years. Now an educational group at Wheeling University will use the drama of these climate and geologic extremes to inspire and inform middle school students about the life-threatening health effects of natural disasters as a way to stimulate student interest in science.

The centers will use the grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health to create “Natural Disasters & Health,” a simulation of disaster emergencies where students learn by taking on the roles of emergency responders, doctors and scientists.

Charles Wood, leader of the project, said “Natural Disasters & Health” will provide disaster health education as live, 90-minute, video-conferenced simulations incorporating gamification elements.

Students will employ knowledge of how the human body works to make critical decisions about emergency treatment. They will triage survivors, diagnose injuries and determine treatment options.

After the simulation, a teacher is encouraged to invite local public health or emergency management officials to talk to their classes about historic and likely future natural disasters in their community. Students will take home their learning by developing a family disaster response plan.

All project activities will be supported by professional development for teachers. An online Disasters and Health Resource Center will include curricula on body systems and disasters, with career information integrated into the simulation and curricula.

Jackie Shia, Challenger Learning Center director, said the two centers’ 26-year history has demonstrated that immersion of students in vibrant science simulations can trigger life-long interest in science, yielding future scientists, engineers and doctors, as well as a more scientifically literate public.

One of the goals of this project is to introduce students to socio-scientific issues related to disasters.

This includes consideration of controversial, socially relevant concerns, as well as scientific facts. For example, global warming is predicted to increase the frequency and severity of meteorological disasters, so students will discuss if human actions cause more disasters.

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